What's In a Name? Philosophically Minded Houston Rockers The Manichean

It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're trying hard to decode Houston's oddest monikers in order to find a little meaning.

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Brandon Holley

The Manichean is a - well, it's band that plays music here in town. Define them, you say? Not these easiest task in the world. You could just say that they're awesome, of course, but that's no real illumination of the nature of this local union of weirdness. It's loud and experimental and it's got horns and strings and it's full of weird spoken-word and atmospheric moaning, and most of all it really REALLY rocks your socks off.

Hell, it rocks the socks off of people who have yet to buy socks, but may in the future. But what is a Manichean? We sat down with vocalist Cory Sinclair to find out. It turns out that Manichaeism is an extinct Gnostic religion that flourished until the 14th century. Though never as popular as Christianity or Zoroastrianism, it spread very quickly from Rome to China, and was almost universally feared and suppressed by other religions. Even the Buddhist gave them a hard time, and they usually leave people pretty much alone.

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"We appreciate the sense of irony in choosing a name associated with an extinct religion whose primary tenets were meant to teach the separation of Good and Evil," says Sinclair. "We, however, are much more interested in a coalescence of the two, oftentimes describing ourselves as simply 'Sinister Purity.'"

It's an appropriate description for a band whose entire approach gives off a vibe of slightly rotten innocence. Another defining aspect of Manicheaism was its adoption of other religions' deities and demigods for its own ends, including Christ, Jesus H., and the Buddhist bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (pronounced "Have a look at this swallow"). Sinclair and co., are also interested in the co-opting of modern prophets, including in their list Thom Yorke, Herman Hesse, Batman and Free Press Houston editor/Westheimer Block Party majordomo Omar Afra.

"Deity status," says Sinclair, "is a personal thing."

Apparently.

FINAL DEFINITION

The Manichaean: Noun. 1) One that is weird, and yet does not suck; 2) A musician who believes that good and evil should get it on; 3) A follower of the teachings of Mani.

With listenlisten and Two Star Symphony, 8 p.m. tonight at The Mekong Skyline, 2808 Milam. $7 or $3 with bicycle.

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